The cleanup — and grief — continued Friday as the northeastern United States recovered from record-breaking rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
NEW YORK (AP) – Police went door to door in search of several possible victims and compiled lists of the missing as the death toll rose to 49 on Friday in the catastrophic flood that was discharged across the northeast by the remains of Hurricane Ida.
The disaster underscored with heartbreaking clarity how vulnerable the United States is to the extreme weather caused by climate change. In its wake, officials widely considered new measures to save lives in future storms.
More than three days after the hurricane blew ashore in Louisiana, Ida’s rainy debris hit the northeast with surprising anger Wednesday and Thursday, submerged cars, flooded subway stations and basement apartments and drowned many people in five states.
Heavy rain overwhelmed urban drainage systems never intended to handle so much water in such a short time – a record 3 inches in just one hour in New York.
On Friday, communities worked to pull away wrecked vehicles, pump out homes and highways, clear dirt and other debris, restore mass transportation and ensure that everyone caught in the storm was taken into account.
Even after clouds made room for blue skies, some rivers and streams still rose. Part of the rising Passaic River in New Jersey was not expected to come until Friday night.
“People think it’s beautiful out there, which is that this thing is behind us and we can go back to the matter as usual and we are not there yet,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy warned.
At least 25 people died in New Jersey, most of any state. Most drowned after their vehicles were caught in floods. At least six people were missing, Murphy said.
In New York City, 11 people died as they could not escape rising water in their low-lying apartments.
New York’s subways ran with delays or not at all. North of the city, the commuter train service remained suspended or severely curtailed. In the Hudson Valley, train tracks were covered with several feet of mud.
Floodwaters and a falling tree also took life in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.
As the storm ravaged homes and the power grid in Louisiana and Mississippi, leaving more than 800,000 people without power from Friday, it appeared more deadly over 1,000 miles away in the northeast, with the death toll exceeding the 13 lives reported lost so far in the deep south.
Ida stands as the deadliest hurricane in the United States in four years.
In another catastrophic wave in the northeast, fires broke out in swampy homes and businesses, many of which were inaccessible to firefighters due to flooding. Authorities suspected gas leaks triggered by the flood led to the flames.
A ballroom in Manville, New Jersey, exploded in flames around 2 a.m. Friday. Its owner, Jayesh Mehta, said he felt helpless and heartbroken by looking at photos and videos of his burning business.
“I do not know what to do and how to deal with such a thing,” Mehta told NJ Advance Media.
In Philadelphia, part of the crosstown Vine Street Expressway remained covered in water as people in neighborhoods along the rising Schuylkill River began cleaning up and assessing the damage. The river reached its highest level since 1902. The crews worked with seven large pumps to drain the flooded highway, with an inch thick layer of mud left where the road had dried.
Officials said they wanted the highway reopened Saturday afternoon, with thousands of people expected to flock to the area for the two-day Made in America music festival, which Mayor Jim Kenney was determined to continue as planned.
In New York City, teams of police officers knocked on doors to check if anyone was left behind. Police went through emergency calls from when the storm hit to find out where people may have been in danger. Calls to the city’s 911 system peaked 12 times above normal Wednesday night.
“I do not have an exact answer as to how many people are actually missing,” Rodney Harrison, chief of department for New York City police, said Thursday night, “but we will continue to work hard all day, all night long for to ensure that we identify everyone’s location. ”
In Wilmington, Delaware, crews rescued more than 200 people after the Brandywine River reached record levels, swampy roads, bridges and homes. No major injuries were reported.
Ida landed in Louisiana on Sunday bound as the fifth strongest storm ever to hit the American mainland, then moved north. Predictors had warned of dangerous floods, but the violence of the storm surprised the country’s most densely populated metropolitan corridor.
Leaders in some states promised to investigate whether anything could be done to prevent a catastrophe like this from happening again.
New Jersey and New York have both spent billions of dollars on improving flood defenses after Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, but much of this work was primarily focused on protecting communities from seawater, not rain.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the region needs to turn its attention to stormwater systems unprepared to deal with a future of more frequent floods due to climate change.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will work to clear people from roads, subway trains and basement apartments ahead of major rainstorms and will ban travel as it does during major snowstorms. He said the city will also send out cell phone alerts warning people to leave basement apartments and send city workers to get them to shelters.
“It’s not just telling people to get out of their apartment,” de Blasio said. “It goes door to door with our first responders and other city agencies to get people out.”
Catalini reported from Trenton, NJ
Associated Press authors Jim Mustian and Karen Matthews in New York City, Marina Villeneuve and Michael Hill in Albany and Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
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